Question: Want to learn more about fighting oxidative stress with nutrition and exercise?
While you may have heard the term free radical thrown around in the past, the majority of us are unsure what it actually means. We just know it sounds bad! Because the connection between free radicals and cancer is so clear, perhaps we should be taking a closer look at what these are and how to reduce the amount of molecules in our bodies.
Simply put, free radicals are unstable molecules our bodies naturally produce. Because they are unstable, they have the potential to damage healthy molecules and DNA. Oxidative stress refers to the amount of free radicals present in our body compared to the amount of antioxidants available.
This is important to measure because antioxidants have the ability to clear free radicals from our system. This means that when we have high levels of oxidative stress, we have too many free radicals and not enough antioxidants!
So how can we correct this common imbalance? There are a few simple dietary practices that can help you reduce your oxidative stress. Among these are increasing antioxidant rich foods (primarily brightly colored fruits and vegetables) as they neutralize free radicals, focusing on eating a diet that is rich in a variety of different plant-foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes), choosing high quality, unprocessed meats, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding refined seed oils (sunflower, canola, safflower, cottonseed), and reducing refined carbohydrates (added sugars, white flour, white rice) while including whole grains instead (quinoa, whole grain bread, brown rice, whole grain cereals & crackers).
Incorporating some or all of these dietary practices can help re-balance the antioxidant to free radical ratio within your body.
Exercise is also a beneficial component of reducing the amount of oxidative stress in your body. Regular exercise counteracts many of the negative effects caused by free radicals. For the purposes of reducing free radical exposure, moderate exercise may be better than exhaustive exercise.
It is important to schedule some low intensity exercise bouts like yoga, tai-chi, gentle stretching or walking into your regular exercise routine. And remember, consistency is key! Exercising on a regular basis helps our body adapt to oxidative stress.
Additional habits that can help optimize antioxidant function in your body include getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, managing stress levels, and ensuring you wear sunscreen when exposed to direct sunlight. Start implementing some of these simple dietary and lifestyle changes today to support healthy levels of oxidative stress in your body.
If you would like to learn more about fighting oxidative stress please join us for a survivorship class with Kylie Conner RDN and Tracy Tilley NP, on June 15 at 5 pm at Mission Hope Cancer Center. Space is limited so make your reservations by calling (805) 219-HOPE (4673)
HAVE A QUESTION? This weekly column produced by Marian Regional Medical Center, Cancer Program invites you to submit your questions to “Your Cancer Answers” at the following email address: MHCC@commonspirit.org